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How To Ship Heavy Items Without Ruining Profits

how-to-ship-heavy-items-without-ruining-profits

Providing customers with fast shipping options is vital to success, but for items on the heavier side this can end up costing you an arm and a leg. Small packages? Those are easy to ship, and major carriers often give you nice discounts on them. But what about the big stuff?

When it comes to the shipping process itself, big carriers have come prepared to manage the logistics of oversized shipping efficiently. In fact, USPS and FedEx can even have heavy items delivered by the next business day. But at what cost?

Well, there’s a blueprint that you can follow to cut heavy package shipping costs down significantly and avoid unwanted expenses. If you trim the costs down from all around, the end result is noticeable savings.

What to consider when shipping heavy items

When it comes to shipping heavy items, and figuring out how to cut costs, you first need to ask; what am I being charged for? Knowing what factors count towards the shipping rates helps you direct your attention towards trimming these costs.

Dimensional weight

The concept of dimensional weight was introduced in around 2015, and it’s different from your package’s actual weight. Basically, dimensional weight is a sort of theoretical weight that factors your package’s dimensions in. This model was adopted by shipping companies because they were losing money on large packages that weighed less.

How does this concern you? Well, when your shipping partner goes to calculate the shipping fees, they will take the greater of the two weights – dimensional or actual – into account. If your package weighs less than its dimensional weight, then that’s what you’ll be charged for – so this is something important to look into beforehand.

Fragility of items

If the goods you are having delivered are damaged during the shipping process, then that’s going to send your costs sky-high. Damaged goods means expensive returns and refunds, which you really want to avoid. So if you’re looking to ship items that need extra care, find a carrier that offers commendable fragile shipping services. 

Origin and destination of the package

Big or small, the shipping fees you pay on a package will always incorporate the shipping zone into the calculation. This means that if the package has to travel a long distance to reach the customer, it’s going to cost you more.

How can you cut these costs down? Opt for a distributed inventory! With distributed fulfillment centers, placed in strategic locations, your shipping costs can be reduced dramatically. 

Carrier being used

The shipping costs you pay also depend on which carrier you’re using. Some are more generous when it comes to shipping oversized or fragile items, while others aren’t so much. 

Type of service being used

Shipping fees also depend on the type of shipping services that you’re going for. Is it 2-day delivery? Is it next day delivery? Does the product need to be shipped internationally? Also, the increment in prices with respect to shipping zones also varies with the type of service. So, your zone-to-zone shipping fees for 2-day delivery may not increase as much as they do for overnight delivery.

Best ways to ship heavy and large items (+top carriers)

Major carriers all have their own prices and services for shipping heavy and oversized items, and one carrier isn’t necessarily better than another across the board. You need to determine which carrier specifically offers you the best package for what you’re shipping.

Carriers such as USPS, UPS, and FedEx provide services to small businesses and even individuals, so they put their prices up in the open for you to see easily. But freight carriers such as DHL and FedEx freight that focus on serving large businesses don’t have their prices up publicly, so you need to contact them for a quote.

USPS

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is the largest carrier, so it should come as no surprise that they offer some pretty diverse shipping options to cater to different needs. 

Priority Mail: 1-3 days

The USPS Priority Mail option is available for items that weigh 70 pounds and under, and the packages range from small envelopes to a large box of around 1 ft x 1ft x 6 inches. If you’re looking to send a heavy item that is small or medium-sized, in a reasonable amount of time, then the Priority Mail option is a good choice. While it’s not the fastest option, the delivery service gets the items to your customers within 1-3 days, which is pretty great.

Priority Mail Express: Overnight

The Priority Mail Express is USPS’s fastest shipping option, where orders are guaranteed to reach your customers by the next business day. For packages under 70 pounds, the Priority Mail Express option is good if you can fit the item into the flat rate shipping envelope. Otherwise, the prices are pretty high for larger packages and you might be better off with a different carrier. 

Media Mail: 2-10 days

Media Mail is a niche-specific shipping option that select ecommerce businesses can benefit massively from. With Media Mail, media items such as CDs, DVDs and books can be shipped at extremely affordable rates – the best rates that you’ll find, in fact. So if you’ve got some heavy media items that need to be delivered, Media Mail is your best bet.

Ground: 2-8 days

If your package is too big to fit in the Priority Mail flat rate box, then enter the Ground shipping option. This option still limits you to 70 pounds, but the size limits are less restrictive. 

As you can see, the trade-off is that Ground shipping is a lot slower than Priority Mail. The prices are calculated depending on the shipping zone and weight. 

FedEx

Since we’re discussing major carriers, it should come as no surprise that FedEx made it to the list. 

Ground: 1-7 days

FedEx doesn’t offer you the same guaranteed speed options that USPS does, but they make up for it by offering you more liberal weight options. Unlike USPS, which limits you to 70 pounds, FedEx is far more generous, giving you the option to ship items as heavy as 150 pounds. They’re also more relaxed about package sizes – letting you ship items as large as 108 inches long, or 165 inches for length plus girth.

So if your items are too big, or too heavy, for USPS, then head on over to FedEx.

Freight: Priority or Economy

If you’re shipping heavy items in large volumes, then FedEx’s Freight option is one of the best picks out there. The prices vary immensely, depending on the product’s size and the shipping zone, but you’ll get an exceptional rate if you’re shipping a lot of oversized items.

DHL

Need international shipping taken care of effectively? Enter DHL, one of the best freight shipping carriers out there.

Air freight

DHL’s Air freight option has your goods delivered through flights that are scheduled along major routes. The best part about the Air freight service is that there are many options to choose from depending on your needs.

Need door-to-door, airport-to-door, or door-to-airport delivery taken care of? DHL will manage all three. If speed is a priority, then the Urgent Air Freight will have your delivery taken care of in just 1-2 business days. If you’re not in a rush, then Air Economy takes care of shipments within 5-7 days. If you have special cargo or items that are temperature-sensitive, then DHL has options for those too, including delivering shipments in temperature-controlled environments.

Ocean freight

Similar to the Air freight option, the Ocean freight service is great for shipping heavy items in bulk, except overseas rather than by air. The two main options are Full Container (FCL) and Less Than Container (LCL), but they offer special options for freight shipments too like temperature-controlled environments and transportation facilities for liquids. 

Our advice? If you’re looking to send big, bulky items in large quantities, then freight shipping is the way to go.

What to do before shipping large and heavy items

Before shipping large and heavy items, it’s important to make sure that they are properly secured and in packages of the right dimensions. This involves using the right amount of dunnage where appropriate, and if you’re shipping fragile items, opt for something like bubble wrap to keep it safe. Large and heavy items are usually more costly, so you really can’t afford to have them damaged in shipping.

What’s An oversized Item?

A package is considered ‘oversized’ when it’s either too large, too heavy, or a combination of both. Carriers traditionally consider packages oversized if the item’s length and girth are greater than 165 inches, or if the goods weigh more than 150lbs, or if the length is greater than 108 inches. However, many carriers now limited the combined length to 130 inches. Let’s see what each carrier considers ‘oversized’.

USPS Oversized

USPS classifies items as oversized if they have a length of 108 inches, and no more than 130 inches combined length and girth. For this range, businesses pay a standard Parcel Select oversized fee which is reasonable. Beyond these dimensions, though, you’ll have to contact USPS for a specific quote. USPS specifies oversized items by dimensions, but not weight.

UPS Oversized

UPS has three criteria for classifying an item as oversized; if its weight is more than 150lbs, if the length alone is more than 108 inches, or if the combined length and girth exceed 165 inches. If your package dimensions or weight fall under these conditions, then you will have to pay UPS’s Over Maximum Limits charges subject to DIM.

FedEx Oversized

FedEx classifies items as oversized if the length exceeds 96 inches in length or 130 inches in length plus girth. Dimensional weight calculations apply to oversized product calculations, and there is a minimum 90lbs village weight charge too. While FedEx lets you ship oversized products by ground still, there is an oversized shipping charge of $90 per parcel. Also, during annual peak shipping times, an additional charge called the oversized peak surcharge ($37.5 per package) is applicable too. So, FedEx may not be the most cost-effective option. 

DHL Oversized

DHL classifies an oversized item as one that exceeds 70kg (around 155lbs) in weight, or has any one dimension that exceeds 120 cm (that’s 47.24 inches). So, for oversized classification, DHL takes into account all the dimensions rather than just the length. The oversized package cost is $89, but they have different services available that you can contact them about.

How to Ship Large or Oversized Items

When it comes to shipping your large or oversized items, there are two things to prioritize; 1) keep the shipping fee as low as possible and, 2) minimize the risk of damage. The steps themselves are quite straightforward…

Package Your Item Properly

This goes without saying, but we’ll mention it anyway – make sure that your items are secured in place and with great care. 

Take Measurements

Remember how we discussed the dimensional weight pricing model earlier? Well, when getting your items ready for shipping, look for the most efficient packaging option. This will not only help you score a lower shipping fee, but is also important for keeping the goods safe. If your package dimensions are off relative to the items inside, then they might get tossed around during shipping and consequently damaged. 

Weigh Your Package

Weigh your package beforehand, so you know exactly what pricing options it falls under. Is your package too heavy to be shipped by USPS’s conventional options, for example? Weighing your package is an important part of determining the right carrier, and shipping option.

Calculate Rates

Calculate the rates that you will have to pay depending on the options available to you. Can you afford to go for the express options, or will that cut your profits down? Is one carrier giving you a better rate for your product’s dimensions? 

Book and Pay

Now that you’ve worked out which option is best for shipping your package, go ahead and book it! 

Print Your Shipping Labels

Print your shipping labels out and fill the required details in – where is the package going to, how much does it weigh, etc. Different carriers have different shipping labels, so fill them in as required.

Label Your Package

Put the labels on your package, so that they’re ready to go!

Send the Package

All that’s left now is to send your package and wait for your customers to receive it. Hit the go button!

Let ShipHero handle heavy item fulfillment

Heavy item fulfillment can be quite tedious, and not every business is equipped to manage oversized shipping efficiently. There are so many factors involved – calculating the weight, comparing weight vs dimensional weight, getting the right package sizes, figuring out which categories your packages fall under, and more. So if this all seems like too much for you, consider outsourcing the load to a competent logistics partner.

Outsourced fulfillment

ShipHero is a powerful warehouse management solution that many leading third-party logistics providers rely on. ShipHero also offers ecommerce merchants outsourced fulfillment options – we’ll take the hassle of heavy item fulfillment off your hands, and perform all the calculations and leg work for you.

Distributed fulfillment centers

Remember how shipping zones were a big factor in calculating shipping fees, and how a distributed inventory can help combat this problem? Well, ShipHero has you covered here too. Don’t have your own distributed fulfillment centers? That’s fine, you can have your inventory distributed amongst our own, ultimately reducing shipping distances.

Save on shipping costs

An experienced logistics partner like ShipHero can help you make major savings on oversized shipping costs. With distributed fulfillment centers cutting delivery times and shipping costs down, and powerful software solutions and an experienced team handling the technical stuff ShipHero is the logistics solution that can help you slash unnecessary costs.

Shipping heavy items FAQs

How much does it cost to ship 100 lbs?

This depends on what carrier you are using. For example, FedEx considers a 100 lbs package as oversized, and so a $90 oversized fee will apply. However, carriers like DHL and FedEx may not consider this package oversized and so the shipping costs will be lower. 

What is the cheapest way to ship heavy items?

There is no single cheapest way to ship heavy items. Many factors come into play, including the package dimensions, package weight, dimensional weight, the type of items, and whether or not you have a distributed inventory. Working with a reliable logistics solution partner can help you find the most cost-effective way to ship heavy items. 

How do I ship heavy items for shipping?

Heavy items need to be properly packaged in boxes, parcels, or containers of the right dimensions. The packages need to be weighed and measured so that you can determine the most cost-effective way to have them delivered. Correctly labeling packages before shipping them off is vital to make sure they reach the right destination.

How much does it cost to ship a 25-pound box?

This depends on many factors, including what carrier and shipping option you are using, and where the box is going. For example, let’s look at USPS’s Parcel Select Ground option, which is one of the slowest and most cost-effective delivery options. The 25-pound box can cost anywhere from $25 to above $70 depending on which shipping zone it’s headed to. 

Conclusion

Shipping heavy and oversized items involve far more complications than you might have imagined. The worst part is that if you don’t take the time to perform the necessary calculations and take all the important factors into account, your business may incur significant losses. If you have a dedicated team with a skill set that can optimize your heavy item fulfillment, then you’re all set.

If, however, oversized shipping seems daunting and beyond what your business can comfortably handle, then look no further than ShipHero. Outsourcing your fulfillment process to us means that we’ll work all the technicalities out for you, and find the most cost-effective way to ship your heavy and oversized products.

Learn more

Special thanks to our friends at Shiphero for their insights on this topic.

About the author

Steve Hutt

Steve has entrepreneurship in his DNA, starting in the early days of online commerce when he achieved Power Seller status through his eBay store. This propelled him to become a co-founder of VisionPros.com, a contact lens and eyewear retailer. With a successful exit from his startup, he embarked on his next journey into agency work in e-commerce and digital strategy.

Currently, Steve is a Senior Merchant Success Manager at Shopify Plus, where he helps identify, navigate, and accelerate growth in the complex world of commerce.

To maintain his competitive edge, Steve also hosts the eCommerce Fastlane Podcast and Shopify Founder Stories, a top-rated twice-weekly podcast where he interviews Shopify Partners and subject matter experts who share the latest marketing strategy, tactics, platforms, and must-have apps, to help Shopify brands improve efficiencies, grow revenue, profit, and lifetime customer loyalty.

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